A Lakewood rabbi who runs a school for children with developmental disabilities pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of stealing public funds for personal use.
Osher Eisemann, 60, the founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence in Lakewood, is accused of using a private fundraising nonprofit for the school to launder $630,000 in public tuition funds.
He was indicted last month on charges including theft, money laundering, corporate misconduct and misuses of government funds.
Eisemann, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges before Superior Court Judge Benjamin Bucca in Middlesex County.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson told Bucca the state has offered a plea deal that would require a prison sentence of five years in exchange for Eisemann admitting to a second-degree charge of theft by unlawful taking.
As part of the plea deal, Eisemann would also pay restitution, Robinson said.
Eisemann, of Lakewood, faces up to 15 years in state prison on the charges.
An attorney representing Eisemann, Lee Vartan, declined to comment after the brief court hearing. However, Vartan maintained his client’s innocence in a previous statement given to NJ Advance Media.
“Rabbi Eisemann has never taken any SCHI funds for his personal use, and we strongly deny that there was any ill intent in the use of SCHI funds,” Vartan said in the statement.
“We look forward to the complete exoneration of both SCHI and Rabbi Eisemann in this investigation.”
SCHI receives $1.8 million a month in public tuition from the Lakewood School District to teach students with special needs. Authorities said Eisemann took $430,000 of that money for a personal business venture, the clothing company TAZ Apparel, LLC.
Authorities said Eisemann also laundered an additional $200,000 of the funds in a scheme “intended to make it appear that he was repaying debts he owed to the school using personal funds.”
SCHI officials previously called the attorney general’s investigation “baseless” and said the school has a long history of providing a “superior level of services to meet the unique needs of severely-disabled, medically fragile, and socially-emotionally challenged children and youth adults.”
An attorney representing SCHI, Robert Rabinowitz, declined to comment after Monday’s arraignment.
It’s unclear why the arraignment was moved to Middlesex County.
A spokesman for the attorney general did not immediately return an email seeking that information, and attorneys on both sides declined to comment on that.
Eisemann is scheduled to be back in court on June 12.